Muttering a litany of
words so colorful they would have even the most leathery patrons at the local
tavern raising an eyebrow or two, Regina darts up the remainder of the stairs and
down two doors on the right as quickly as her trembling legs can carry her. The
festive sounds of the townsfolk below, high off royal contact and drunk on
mulled wine, travel through the ventilation slits and she sighs, resentful but
relieved all the same that the party carries on.
The last thing she needs is
for Robin to catch her lurking in his rooms, trying to set something on fire.
Shutting the door behind
her, she leans against it as she gulps down a breath or two, waits for her
heart rate to slow. There’s a stale, dusty quality about the place, by nature
of its chronically uninhabited state, devoid of any warmth or particular scent
unique to its current occupant. Only the four-poster canopy of vibrant green,
resting in the center of the room atop a bearskin rug, looks vaguely
personalized, and even then it appears stiff from disuse.
Regina tears her eyes away
from the bed. Crouching in front of the chimneypiece, she grabs the flint and
steel blade from under the pile of logs. Her fingers shake as she strikes them
together, showering the floor with flimsy, pathetic-looking sparks. The knife
slips from her grasp and she shudders as the blunt edge slices through the skin
of her palm, deep enough to draw blood.
“Damn it,” she curses
under her breath, tossing the sooty flint aside to examine her wound more
closely. She swipes angrily at the bead of sweat that trickles down her temple,
scowling when a wayward drop of blood lands on her skirts. This damn dress is
the only halfway decent thing she owns—and again, the reminder of how she’d had
a certain pair of bright blue eyes in mind as she dressed that morning, a giddy
bounce in her step—
She can’t cry. She won’t
She’s finally managed a
substantial enough spark to prod at with the brass poker when the doorknob
turns with a startling rattle, and she barely has the time to glance up as the
wooden panel swings wide open.